World Class Players Ferguson “Forgot”
Sir Alex Ferguson has caused a bit of controversy with comments in his latest book that he only managed four world-class players during his reign at Manchester United.
He cited Cristiano Ronaldo, Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs and Eric Cantona as the only footballers he deemed worthy of the world-class tag.
Ferguson may have high standards but surely there’s an XI of players he’s managed who were amongst the best in the world in their positions during their prime. We take a look at those he neglected.
Perhaps the most glaring omission, with Gary Neville commenting on last night’s ‘Monday Night Football’ that “if he wasn’t a world-class goalkeeper then I don’t know what is”.
He was named World’s Best Goalkeeper twice and UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year four times so it seems remiss of his former boss at United to overlook him.
While Irish fans may argue – and perhaps rightly so – for the inclusion of Denis Irwin, Evra was indisputably amongst the best left-backs on the planet during his best years at Old Trafford.
Despite a notable decline during the end of his United career, he’s gone on to win the double with Juventus, while reaching a Champions League final.
Ferguson had no shortage of top-class centre-halves during his United reign, with Steve Bruce, Laurent Blanc, Jaap Stam and even Paul McGrath all worthy of a mention.
However, much of United’s failings since his retirement have been down to their inability to adequately replace one of the Premier League’s most impressive central defensive pairings in Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand.
The duo would surely have been welcomed by any side in world football at their peak. Both defenders made the FIFA World XI and they’ve been named in the Premier League PFA Team of the Year ten times between them.
Perhaps the most questionable inclusion, the aforementioned Neville may be the club’s greatest ever right-back.
He made the PFA Team of the Year on five occasions, and while he was never the greatest in the world in his position, his career spanned a period where the likes of Cafu, Lilian Thuram, Javier Zanetti and Gianluca Zambrotta all shone on the world stage.
Another that Neville felt was unfairly ignored in Fergie’s list, Keane was a midfield colossus at his peak and was coveted by most of the continent’s top clubs.
There’s no doubt Ferguson’s current relationship with his former captain may have clouded his judgement about a player who almost single-handedly led his side to the 1999 Champions League final.
Van Nistelrooy gets the nod over Wayne Rooney as, at his peak, the Dutch hitman would have walked into any side in the world. Could the same be said of Wayne Rooney at any stage of his career?
However, there could be a case for Rooney’s inclusion over that of Cantona who, despite his talismanic role for United, never really performed outside of the nascent Premier League.
Van Nistelrooy won countless club and individual honours in three countries, and was Champions League Top Scorer on three occasions. If that’s not world class, what is?
There’s several other players also surely worthy of consideration. Irwin, Blanc, Stam and Rooney have already been mentioned but the likes of Carlos Tevez, Bryan Robson, Edwin van der Saar, Robin van Persie, David Beckham and Juan Sebastian Veron (despite his spell in England) may all have a case to feel aggrieved at their omission.